“The X-Files” Parody, Pushing A Drug
“The X-Files” was a TV series that ran from 1995 to 2002. The recent broadcast is showing now – and it reminds me of an assignment on January 7,1997, when I received a call from an art director at FCB /Healthcare, to work on a storyboard for Biaxin, Abbott Laboratories. At the agency, the copywriter was creating the script. The art director suggested that, before coming in to the agency, I should videotape a showing of “The X-Files” to study the characters, Mulder and Scully and also study the mood of the mystery.
The lines from the first page of the script that was faxed to me, titled :
Treatment for Product Rep Video
“The BiaXin-Files”: The Cure Is Out There
“Main Characters” were described as Agent Mildew and Agent Scuzzy.
I had always thought that a peptic ulcer was caused by stress but the copy of this assignment taught me that it is often caused from H-pylori bacteria (Helicobacter-pylori). In 1985, Abbott Labs had partnered with a Japanese drug company to fight bacterial infections. Abbott Labs got the FDA approval for Biaxin in 1991.
By the time that I arrived at the agency, with these sketches, the art director had developed this rough storyboard for me to follow. My image of the H-pylori bacteria is the sharp-toothed eel-like image that I found and clipped from my extensive scrap file. I colored this creature in the brightest, glowing colors that would make the creature stand out in the dark video.
Following the art director’s 24 frames, my intermediate frames of the storyboard got approval from the agency.
There was one more version drawn with more detail and presented on boards for approval of the client, Abbott Labs.
Since I was working at home and at the agency, my time-sheet (I am surprised that I kept it) shows the hours and locations as I was developing the beginning, intermediate and final drawings. First, the hours I worked were weekdays and then there was also a lot of weekend, overtime hours, as it neared the deadline. I don’t have the final perfected storyboard, it was kept by the agency, but the timesheet for the last version – shows that I spent the average of 27 minutes on each frame.
As my part of this promotional campaign ended, I moved on to other jobs for other clients, so I never found out if the video was actually produced. Could they find actor /look-alikes, find locations and afford the special effects for such a spoof ? The video would have been very expensive and probably was to be shown at conferences or parties, tied in with a trade show. I don’t know how this video could educate the reps with information to use as they represented Biaxin to doctors and medical centers.
(There was, at the end of the video, a “doctor” with a closing message. Copy for this was not included with the script. This might have contained important information for the product representatives.)
As I was preparing this report, I was able to find a clue suggesting that the parody had been produced. I studied the collection of “images” that came with the search of : Biaxin. Here were many “Tchotchkes – free promotional items dispensed at trade shows, conventions, and similar commercial events”. (This is a term that I learned when first working for pharmaceutical agencies).
In this collection, I spotted the same kind of “bacteria monster” (that I had introduced in my storyboard) shown on a wall clock ! There is no date for the clock, but if it was made in 1997, it might have been handed out at the time of the showing of “The Biaxin-Files”!
Then and now, the question : how could the Abbott sales force get any information from the video to aid them as they represented Biaxin to the medical world ? Medical journal ads, trade shows, patient aids, product information, conferences, and direct reports to the reps are all of value– but giving reps : clothing, pens, plush toys, etc.? There must be a reason for rewarding product reps, with small gifts, beyond paying them. Some items could have been passed on during the rep’s appointments. The entertaining motivational video and giveaways were probably paid for by patients, as “research and development”.
Twins With Different Art Styles
The McKee twins seemed to move naturally, each into their own style of art. I asked those who knew them what they remembered about them at the time that they both worked in San Francisco at Landphere Associates. The memories from several Landphere artists reported the McKee brothers were very close and a family member said that they even built a house together, which is a very different situation where conflicts can be common.
Both Don and Ron McKee sensed as early as the 3rd grade at the John T. Hartman grade school in Kansas City, Missouri, that they wanted to make “Art” their career. Later, after graduating from Southwest High in 1949, Don and Ron attended one year at The University of Kansas City and one year at the Kansas City Art Institute and then attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Both twins were drafted into the U.S. Army for two years. As the Korean War ended, after completing basic training, Don and Ron spent the rest of their two-year career in the Army designing and silk screening recruiting posters for the Sixth Army at The Presidio, located near the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ron McKee After the military service, Ron was a top graduate of Art Center College in southern California. Working as an illustrator in Detroit, San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, Ron has provided art for Ford, GM, Chrysler, Arco, 3M, Readers Digest, Universal Studios and Mattel Toys, among others. He produced paintings for the Irvine Company for the “Newport Coast Exhibit” picturing their luxury housing development.
During the few years that Ron worked at Landphere’s, Ron had this fresh and easy style when illustrating sleek automobiles.
In contrast, this brochure for the new $21 million Crocker Plaza required Ron to accurately illustrate and dramatically emphasize the 38-story structure to be completed in 1968. (I am including all of the pages of the brochure to show that this was a very large building for a skyline so different from today’s. The brochure was meant to be turned, to view the pages horizontally and vertically. (I do not have the information to credit the agency and others involved in its production.) Following in the gallery are illustrations that were presented in various annual exhibitions :
In 1970 Ron McKee moved to work in the Los Angeles area. Now his paintings are marketed directly through numerous shows and select galleries.
Don McKee After the military service, Don was hired by Max Landphere Associates (then at 215 Kearny Street) as a graphic designer. He produced ads and brochures for advertising agencies and direct clients.
Here are just some examples from 1958, all eight were presented in San Francisco’s10th Annual Art Directors Exhibition :
By 1960 while at Landphere Associates, Don had developed a new concept in greeting cards, called “Cube Cards” as you see below.
Don, for a time, had his own graphic studio at 901 Broadway and when Max Landphere retired, Don moved back to the Landphere location (then on Gold Street) and he named it : “Artworks”. By 1973 he employed as many as 40 artists. In his many years as a successful graphic artist Don developed an “art path” uniquely his own and he empowered others to multiply their own artistic talents. Don also created a selection of regular greeting cards and with a move of his office and studio to San Rafael, California : he renamed his company “Joy Crafters”.
(Note, for accuracy, I have “lifted” parts of paragaphs from the biographies of Ron and Don and these two photos of the twins were the only ones that I found.)
I’ve noticed that most siblings, who are close in age, compete. As children, the rivalry can be in many areas of accomplishments as they mature. When the challenge was drawing, my sister and I made a pact. I would not draw fashion and she would not draw cartoons. There was, then, no competition.
Louis Macouillard, Location, Location
Louis Macouillard, Location – Location
I never got to meet this fine San Francisco painter/illustrator who was known for his watercolor paintings, posters, menu covers, murals, stamp designs and more. Of French decent, he was born in San Francisco in 1913.
In the early ‘30s he attended San Francisco Polytechnic High School (1884 – 1973).
701 Frederick Street, across from Kezar Stadium, I show the two gymnasiums, as they are today and a photo showing the main building. Also, here is a Google photo, showing the distance between the two gyms, where the main building once stood.
I know three of my friends who schooled there in the late ‘40s and ‘50s. The photo of these friends in art class, are today’s artists : Norm Nicholson and Tony Calvello. The school offered a preparation for a career rather than requirements for an academic college.
By 1934, Louis was attending the California College of Arts in Oakland (which was renamed in 1936 as the California College of Arts Crafts). The history of this college goes back to 1902. Louis then studied study at the Art Students League in New York City.
Back in San Francisco, he opened his studio on Hotaling Place. He became art director for Velvetone Poster Company at the same location in Jackson Square.
Following the early procedures that put printed words on felt pennants, this poster company pioneered the high quality screen-printing of a “poster”. Here is a photo of that pioneer poster company and the poster that Louis Macouillard created for them. The third showing is Hotaling Place, today.
Louis was a Lieutenant in the Navy during WWII in the South Pacific. Research stated that a spread of his paintings from this area of the world was shown in the October 18,1943 issue of Life Magazine. The cover, shown below, shows Ensign Louis Macouillard and Grace Harrison, who was an advertising copywriter in San Francisco. They had married in July of 1943 and they remained together until his death in 1987. Grace died in 2000. Nowhere on the web could I find the story in the magazine, so for $6.59 I bought a copy so that I could share it here. This issue had many advertisements of products known then and now, with illustrations from the very talented commercial artists of the time. Besides the British Pathé News in the theaters and the limited photos in newspapers, Life’s extensive photos covering WWII in many parts of the world was an extensive and current view of the war.
Here is Life Magazine’s story about Ensign Macouillard and reproductions of his paintings, on location, followed by a painting that he created near the ancient temple, Marea Tainuu on the island, Ra’i?tea, French Polynesia.
The last image is a remembrance written by Fred Meinke. Fred and Cal Anderson, (two of our SF advertising friends) also painted when “off-duty” at a WWII location.
During the 1960s, Louis carried on the assignment of menu covers for the Matson Line. He followed three previous artists who had illustrated tropical scenes for the line’s voyages to Hawaii and other tropical Matson destinations. From the Macouillard collection, I show just three. There seems to be just one menu showing San Francisco.
Through the years, there are so very many examples of Macouillard’s fine art and commercial assignments found on the web (Louis Macouillard-Images). I show a few well-known examples and include some that are in private collections.
A few notes from the above collection :
The 1950s illustration “South Shore St. Peter’s Church Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Bermuda Afternoon” was one printed by Portal Publications, Ltd. (founded in 1954 in San Rafael, CA)
“Summer Fog” was one of four prints (date unknown) by Bohemian International Publishers, Ltd..
The Bank of America mural in San Mateo, CA.
BofA was formerly, The Bank of Italy in San Francisco. During the 1906 earthquake and fire, all funds were moved for safe-keeping by A. P. Giannini to his home San Mateo.
This 1970s mural is a tribute to Mr. Giannini and that history. It was designed by Louis Macouillard. Glass tiles were set by Alphonso Purdinas.
Louis was a very skilled, life-long yachtsman and he handcrafted one of the first trimarans to sail on San Francisco Bay. Besides their home on Russian Hill in San Francisco, the Macouillards also lived in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, another area of inspiration for his painting.
Louis Macouillard died on November 26, 1987 in San Francisco.
Imitating The New Yorker Cartoonists
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” This is the famous quote used since it was stated by the English cleric and writer, Charles Caleb Colton who lived from 1780 – 1832. Artists, through the years, have learned from each other and often there is an obvious similarity achieved in their work. I found that it was challenging to imitate the art styles of others. As a layout artist, I could present a particular artist’s style- — with the plan of the client hiring the artist known for that style.
In 1968, Charles Matheny Advertising was located on the second floor of the Belli Building (where I was beginning my graphic art career) we both admired James Thurber who was an American writer with a unique style of wit and humorous illustration. Thurber’s cartoons and short stories were published mostly in The New Yorker, and he was also a journalist and a playwright—
–but he could no longer be reached :
James Grover Thurber (December 8, 1894 – November 2, 1961).
So imitation was our answer.
I offered a similar “look” (not truly copying his style — not really fooling Thurber fans). Charles Matheny had a long career in copywriting for advertising. There were various campaigns for his client, California Casualty. These ads, folders and counter card show the art style that didn’t take much time to execute so it fit the client’s schedules and budget for this campaign.
In 1975, there were two ad campaigns, promoting the use of BankAmericard. I was to study Robert Weber’s cartoon style. His work was easy to find as his cartoons were also published often in The New Yorker magazine. Robert Maxwell Weber (April 22, 1924 – October 20, 2016) Known for over 1,400 cartoons that appeared in The New Yorker from 1962 to 2007 – this was an artist that could be reached in the 1970s ! The first ad shows Weber’s style. Next, my layout (imitating Weber’s style) and the final ad by Weber as printed in many publications.
With the second BofA ad — I again tried to guess the image that would sell the concept to the client, National BankAmericard Inc. (that I knew as NBI). (After all these years, my files are incomplete and I cannot remember the creative director that guided me.) I was not able to have a copy of the second final printed ad showing Weber’s final art — but here is the Xerox from those days that shows his plan. I was able to use this image in preparing the type and placement of the art before his final illustration arrived.
Maxwell “Bud” Arnold formed an advertising agency in 1970. He was creating effective advertising campaigns for clients but he also felt that he could use advertising to reach an audience on socially conscious issues. In September of 1976, for Maxwell Arnold’s client, Golden Gate Transit, I was asked to imitate a Charles Saxon style. (This was the only time that I had free-lanced for Mr. Arnold. He died May 24, 2013.)
After being an editor for Dell Publishing before and after his service in WW2, Saxon began his career as a very well know cartoonist — first for The Saturday Evening Post and in 1956 he started producing his outstanding 92 covers and 700 cartoons for The New Yorker.
Following the two SAXON covers, below, this was my “Saxonish” drawing that’s Bud Arnold submitted to Golden Gate Transit for an approval of style—
—but the finished art was assigned to still another artist who was showing in several popular magazines and also worked for year for Disney : Henry ‘Hank’ Syverson (October 5, 1918 – August 12, 2007) Besides being a constant cartoonist for the Saturday Evening Post, This Week and The New Yorker magazines, his drawings reached other countries with PAN AM Airways ads.
Here are some of Syverson’s creations :
The last ad appeared in October in the Marin County’s Independent Journal. It was then that I found out that the client had changed the artist from Charles Saxon to Hank Syverson.
Lunch With Dugald
Lunch With Dugald
by Newell Alexander
Rosemary and I had flown to San Francisco from L.A. to act in a series of commercials for a now defunct Bay Area amusement park. In the first shot of the day, Rosemary, two little kids and I were riding in a basket on the back of a huge elephant. We were stuck as the animal proceeded to go rogue, he ran through a large part of the park before he could be stopped with us unable to get off. Later, in another shot I was supposed to stand next to a Tiger who decided to lie on top of me, I was trying not to panic. The trainer kept screaming at the cat and jerking on a long chain. I was begging him, “Don’t make him mad.” The Tiger finally lost interest, stood up and sauntered away. The production was a disaster, the director quit in the middle of the day, the whole thing was a wash, I don’t think the spot ever aired. But all was not lost, we both had a good payday and we were going to get to see my old pal, famed San Francisco artist Dugald Stermer, so the trip was not a total failure.
It had been several years since I had seen Dugald, so Rosemary and I rented a car and added an extra day to our trip so we could have nice long catch-up lunch. Dugald called in his no nonsense manner, “Meet me at Delancy’s, it’s near my studio in the Embarcadero.” The meal was delightful, Dugald’s presence gave us lots of attention, the staff approached our table as if he were a Francis Ford Coppola Godfather, we later found out he was a long standing member of the board of the Delancy Street Foundation that managed the restaurant. I did give him some grief over him having a sandwich named after him on the menu. Dugald wasn’t a big fan of show business ; his ex-father-in-law was James Bacon, a long time prominent entertainment columnist for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. Dugald’s former wife Carol was raised in Hollywood amid all the glitz and glamour, neither she nor Dugald were attracted to celebrity.
After lunch we walked around to Dugald’s studio, which was in the complex, it’s hard to describe how he had designed his workspace, it was reminiscent of what Tom Mix or Ken Maynard’s den would look like, Indian pottery, rugs, Western memorabilia, a real Western ambiance. Several left-handed guitars adorned the walls. After his passing it was duplicated in a display at the California College of the Arts.
When he first came to Houston, I watched Dugald transition from a West Coast casual look, to boots, vest, Levis, and western shirts, a signature look he retained to the end. In his studio we looked at some of his work, we reminisced, Rosemary and I sang, and we drank some rare Irish Whiskey, of which he was very fond. It was the last time we were face-to-face.
The next week after our lunch, I wrote Dugald the following letter using the Delancy Restaurant address.
Dear Mr. Stermer,
We had lunch in San Francisco last week at Delancy’s, we saw you
having lunch with one of our favorite actors, Newell Alexander, we were going to ask him for an autograph but we somehow missed him when you guys left. My wife asked the staff who you were and the waiter said you just ate his sandwich. Ha ! Since you know him could you send this enclosed package to him ? It has return postage.
Thanking you in advance, this means a lot to us.
Babs and Sven Yevhoods
P.S. We met Newell at the Cow Palace when he was touring with Neil Young.
I got an answer to my letter a few days later, it was on his letterhead, in the middle of the page were two words hand lettered in his trademark calligraphy, “Nice Try.”
I first met Dugald when I was working as a designer/paste up artist in a small six-man studio in booming Houston, Texas. He had been working for a short while for the Dick Kuhn Studio in Los Angeles, he was recruited by our studio owner, Bill Middaugh. I was a little disappointed when my boss Bill, came back from a California trip all-aglow over Dugald’s work. I saw the attraction when I leafed through Dugald’s portfolio, his work was so good I couldn’t be jealous. I had one year of art at the University of Houston, he was a graduate of the UCLA School of Fine Art. He and Olympic Champion Rafer Johnson were classmates and they were exchange students together in India during Dugald’s Junior year.
I was assigned to pick Dugald up at Hobby Airport in South Houston, I was curious, I knew he and I were about the same age. We both were family men, I had three children, he had four. The years he had spent in art school, I had spent in the U.S. Navy as an aviator.
We were doing very well at the studio, the addition of Dugald was amazing, he and I worked well together, word was out that we were a “hot shop,” doing good, creative work. Our boss Bill came in with the news that we were getting a chance to land an ad campaign for the largest bank in Houston, no pitch, just design an ad, if they liked it we could have the account. It was to be a full-page four-color ad on the back of Houstonian Magazine. We briefly brainstormed and Dugald did a rough sketch, it said in small type, “member of,” and then “FDIC” in a huge bold font. He added a small photo of the bank building about the size of a postage stamp on the bottom margin. Sizing up the work, Boss Bill said, “I don’t think they’ll get it.” There was a long silence, “How about doing an alternate ? Just make the building big and FDIC small.” Dugald refused to change it. I wouldn’t change it either and we didn’t get the account. Dugald’s reaction ? Fuck ‘em.” The story got around the ad community in Houston and our business skyrocketed. It was a lesson well learned. I used the same technique later when I was working as an art director on major accounts at a large agency in Dallas. I won some battles and lost some.
I never knew Dugald as an illustrator, he did however do the linocuts and hand set all the type in the work he did on his small letterpress he called “The Impress.” The small 4 x 5 inch books were gems that he printed on handmade paper, the text was simple and clever, the art was very tasty. His press was set up in his house and he spent many late nights drinking Irish whiskey and making small delightful pieces of art. His mastery of typography was amazing and he won numerous awards in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth Art Director’s competitions.
Howard Gossage was flown in to judge the Houston Art Director’s show. He was an icon in the advertising San Francisco advertising community, Howard was blown away by Dugald’s work. Dugald won several awards and with Howard’s help he landed the Art Director’s job at Ramparts Magazine in the Bay Area. Dugald assisted me in getting a job at CA magazine in Palo Alto. I free-lanced some for Dugald at Ramparts but only for a few months. The mail boy at the magazine, and our weed connection, was a young eager kid named Jann Wenner. Jann went on to transform the anti-war magazine Ramparts into today’s Rolling Stone Magazine.
My tenure at CA was brief, I moved back to Texas and didn’t see Dugald for many years. I watched his ascent into art fame as I labored in Southern California building an acting career.
Dugald and I only had one moment of discord, I made an off-hand remark in a post, “Keep the lenses of your Art-O-Graph clean.” (An Art-O-Graph is a tool to aid drawing). I knew he was pissed because of several one-word responses to my e-mails.
Every once in a while when I have a moment I will log on to Dugald’s website and just browse through some of his work. His design sense helped him place his art on the page in very tasty ways. He would scoff at the notion, but I consider him a master.
Dugald Stermer mastered the application of art and ideas.
The Ramparts covers, above show one example from each of the years when Dugald was the art director at the magazine. The two examples— Ben Franklin and Woody Guthrie — show styles far different than illustrations that he produced later. The editorial page, in 1969 explained that Ramparts had been loosing revenue and had to go into bankruptcy, Chapter 11. Dugald left his position as art director in 1970. The magazine needed to raise its subscription price and had legal problems. It lasted until 1975. Then it was taken over and became the Rolling Stone Magazine. Another offshoot was Mother Jones Magazine.
At the left of this story, under Artist’s Sites, you will see Dugald Stermer’s website showing his deft illustration and lettering styles known to his many admirers.
More on Newell Alexander can be found on IMDb.